I don't know how it worked with the big guys like Einstein, Mozart or Picasso, but sometimes all it takes to get me inspired is the smallest whiff of an idea. Like yesterday afternoon when I had to run to the store to get coffee beans so we wouldn't be all cotton-headed in the morning.
My neighborhood New Seasons market was handing out samples of ready-to-heat chili made by a small company in Southern Oregon. I picked one up and tasted it, and I'm sure the other shoppers saw the thought bubble that formed above my head. "Oooh…yeah. Chili!" But instead of running to the shelf where the product was kept, I went to the meat counter and got a couple of pounds of chuck roast, then to the canned goods aisle for three big cans of kidney beans.
Yes, I know, I should have gone to the bulk aisle and cooked up my own beans, but time was short and I needed to get home and make dinner, and by now my chili jones was going strong. After picking up the coffee beans (See, I didn't forget!), I got home, chopped onions and garlic and the last little ancho peppers from the garden, threw them in the pot with a few dried herbs, added the beans, roasted tomatoes and meat and let it cook for a couple of hours. Fabulous!
This would be a great recipe for a slow-cooker, and would be even better if you got some beans soaking the night before, but for a relatively quick, hearty winter meal it's divine. All it takes a is a little inspiration!
Quick Beef Chili
2 Tbsp. oil
3 slices bacon (optional)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 ancho peppers or bell peppers, chopped (optional)
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 bay leaf
3 25-oz. cans kidney beans, or 6 c. cooked beans
4 c. roasted or canned tomatoes
2 lbs. chuck roast, cut in 1" cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in Dutch oven. Sauté bacon, if using, until fat begins to render. Add onions, garlic and peppers and sauté till tender. Add oregano, cumin, chili powder and bay leaf and stir briefly to combine. Add beans, sauce and meat (no browning necessary) and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 90 min., longer if you want fall-apart tender beef. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with your favorite chili condiments like cheddar cheese, rice, chopped onions or whatever.